Sunday, 19 October 2014

Brockwell Junior parkrun (#19)

Brockwell Park in South London is a gently undulating and pretty park with views across to Central London from its highest point. I first ran in this park at Brockwell parkrun [my blog] with my daughter in her running buggy on a drizzly morning in May 2013. Since then a junior event has been set up in the park and we paid it a visit on drizzly morning (that cleared up before the run) in October 2014.

brockwell juniors start [photo:7t]

Upon arrival we had a choice of parking in the Lido car park or out on the adjacent street - the streets have meters but they are only in use between Monday and Friday. We left the car on the street and headed into the park. As we were quite early I decided to have a cheeky freedom run around the standard 5k course, then once I had finished I did the same for the 2k junior course.

warmup [photo:7t]

By then the event team had arrived and had begun setting the course up and organising the volunteers. I had my camera with me so I offered to volunteer as photographer [photos here]. My wife also volunteered and took on the role of tail runner. The start/finish is located on the grass just opposite the lido (next to an odd looking building - see photo) and as this venue attracts a good number of participants, you couldn't fail to miss it.

runners almost ready to go [photo:7t]

There were a few workmen laying some cobbles next to the path and their van had been partially blocking the course, however they were more than happy to move it onto the grass before the run started. To be on the safe side an extra marshal was required at this spot, so headed over and doubled up as photographer and marshal.

taken from my marshaling spot halfway up the hill [photo:7t]

As you may have spotted, junior parkruns are all on Sundays but do not all have the same start time. At the time of writing Brockwell Junior parkrun has a 9.30am start time and I would definitely advise checking the official page of any junior parkrun before visiting. A few minutes before the start time, there was the usual parkrun briefing and then a warm up session for all of the kids. The participants then took their places on the start line. Seconds later they were off.

matilda looking comfortable and focused on the incline [photo:7t]

This is a two lap course with a little tail that links the start/finish to the triangular loop that creates the lap, and with the exception of the grass start/finish area, takes place on tarmac paths. For the first 100 metres or so along the tail is flat, then there's a left hand turn and the runners are heading up an incline. At the top of the incline, the runners swing to the right at the junction and head back downhill which flattens out before another right hand turn leads the runners on a slight incline back towards the end of the lap, the runners then turn right to complete the loop again.

sporting our trademark sock pairing [photo:7t]

Once the two laps have been completed, the runners head back along the tail towards the start/finish area, where they transfer back onto the grass and enter the finish funnel, collect their finish token, get scanned and have a well deserved rest.

i loved the oversized hand hi-fives [photo:7t]

It's worth noting that there are a lot of dog walkers in this park so if you have children that are nervous around dogs it might be an idea to accompany them around the course. Even though many will be used to the large amount of runners in the park, there still may be some dogs that could pose a risk to runners - I heard of one incident in the park (not with a child) straight after writing this blog.

just a few hundred metres from the end [photo: 7t]

As far as my daughter's run goes, she powered past my marshalling point on her first lap going up the hill, but then she didn't come back past me on lap two. It turns out that she was running with another girl that had decided to only complete one lap and had followed her, but after finding my daughter and reminding her that it was a two lap course she carried on with me in tow up the hill, round the corner, down the hill, and round the corner until we finally noticed the finish line in sight - from here it was a mad dash to the end with her pipping me to the post!

the finish line in sight [photo:7t]

With the confusion of her run and the timers thinking everyone had finished, the stopwatches had all been stopped. Fortunately everything was resolved and she was given a finish time of 21 minutes flat. I asked her what she thought of the course and she said that she liked it but wasn't too keen on the hill. I must add that on the way to the run she was telling me that she loves hills!

finisher 83 entering the finish funnel [photo:7t]

Despite only being going for 19 events at the time of our visit, this venue has already attracted a really healthy number of runners and at the event we attended there were 83 finishers, when you add in the number of parents running with their children the total number of runners would have been well in excess of 100.

just some finish tokens being sorted on a wall [photo:7t]

It's another really nice venue for a junior parkrun, as always the volunteers are fab and if you have the time it is definitely worth hanging around after the run to visit one of its attractions for example the playground or, if the weather is really good, the lido.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dartford parkrun 13 - a strangely muggy October day, an awful run and a tech malfunction

I did something this week that I've been thinking about for a while, and it's something that on the surface doesn't seem like a big deal. I changed my home parkrun from Riddlesdown to Dartford. Accompanied with this change was a sense of guilt and a feeling that I had abandoned the people and venue that had been my home for the last three years. 

volunteers [photo:7t]

However, things have changed and it now seems right that Dartford should be listed as my home. So with that done and my foot feeling a little better, I added in a few slow runs during the week and am pleased to say that my foot is still feeling fine, but I've been amazed at how quickly my fitness appears to have dropped off.

about 1.5k in and starting to feel it [photo: gary bignell]

This week the lack of running really started to show during the parkrun. I started off a little slower than usual but I just couldn't get going, I was knackered half-way around and I was getting slower every kilometre. I crossed the line in 20.09 which is my worst finish time in over six months.

heading towards the finish [photo: gary bignell]

I could blame my bad run on a lack of running, my double cycle commute (there and back) which resulted in 64 kilometres of cycling the day before the run which could have left my legs a little lifeless, or it could have been the freakishly humid mid-October weather. Probably a combination of all three.

scanning time [photo: gary bignell]

To be honest, I don't really have a lot of bad parkruns so it was time for one to come around. Of course there's always next week and maybe with the foot feeling better I can actually start getting back into some proper training. So this is one run that I'd like to forget.

some finish tokens [photo:7t]

Thankfully parkrun is about more than just running and it was great to be out on a Saturday morning with over 100 like minded people. I finished my run and picked up my scanning gear, and after a few minutes the conversations were flowing and I had partially forgotten about my bad run.

richey and tessa manually entering the times [photo:7t]

Then after the course had been cleared away and the kit put back into its storage container I headed into the clubhouse where I discovered that there were problems with the software for the stopwatches, which meant they wouldn't connect to the laptop. In the end Richey and Tessa added the 103 times manually. So Dartford parkrun 13 is done and dusted and apart from the slight tech problem and my bad run it all went extremely well. I can't wait to do it all over again next week.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Petts Wood 10k 2014

I entered the Petts Wood 10k 2014 a few weeks before the race day as an SLGR affiliated runner at a cost of £13, and then just a few days later, at the Les Witton Dartford 10, I developed some pain in the top of my left foot. Thankfully by the time race day rolled around the pain had gone and the foot felt fine to run on. The downside was that I had barely done any running in the three weeks prior to the race.

petts wood 10k [photo: 7t]

In the week leading up to the race, an email was sent out by the organisers, Petts Wood Runners, detailing the race day arrangements. The full race pack was available for download from the Petts Wood Runners website - the downloadable race pack fitted in with the ethos of this race which was to be ecologically friendly. In addition to the electronic race pack, they didn't use plastic bags for post-race goodies, the cups at the water stations were bio-degradable, the cakes, beers and food are all locally sourced, and they also sorted the post-race rubbish so that as much as possible was recycled.

meeting woody and woodina [photo: dani]

My return to running had been the previous day at Dartford parkrun event 12 where I struggled to get anywhere near my usual parkrun pace. With that in mind I knew to expect a slightly slower performance at the 10k. However, I still wanted to run my best possible time. I drove to Petts Wood and parked on the residential streets adjacent to the venue. The race HQ was at the Willett Recreation Ground which had ample space for the registration, massage tent, cake stand, hot food stand, toilets, baggage tent, bouncy castle and everything else that you would expect to find.

#teamslgr and co. [photo: dani]

There was a really nice vibe at the race HQ and in addition to the 10k runners there were plenty of children and other family members and/or supporters. The event also featured a performance from local band The Dirty Perks, which really added to the great atmosphere. While I collected my race number with inbuilt timing chip, the wife registered our daughter for the children's race. Soon after this I started bumping into, and chatting to, fellow runners including one who is doing the #7weeksofparkrun challenge. There were six 'So Let's Go Running' runners taking part in the race and eventually #TeamSLGR plus our friends from Swanley AC and Plumstead Runners had formed a little huddle.

at the start line [photo: dani]

When the race start time came around, we were directed to line up in our predicted finish time pens. If I hadn't had the problem with my foot I would have optimistically lined up in the sub-40 pen, but as I knew that I'd be slower than usual, I took a more conservative approach and went into the 40-45 minute pen. The start was staggered and the first group went off about 10 seconds before us in the second pen. The subsequent pens were released at regular intervals of about 10 seconds until all of the pens were empty.

and we're off [photo: dani]

This race would definitely go down as mixed terrain. It started on grass with a lap of the recreation ground before heading out onto the local streets, which eventually lead to a footbridge (with steps on both sides) that crossed the railway line. After this the course was a mixture of more roads, uneven tarmac or concrete paths, grass and forest trails. The course undulated throughout, had a couple of steeper climbs and one steep downhill thrown in for good measure. Once over the railway, the course had a steady incline followed by a steady decline until reaching the 3.7 kilometre point.

matilda somewhat dwarfed by her competition in the children's race [photo: dani]

Around this time the children's races got underway - the first was the 5-7 year olds, and there were so many entrants that this age group were split into two separate groups, which is very encouraging for the future! My daughter went out in the first wave and completed the 400 metre course with no walking breaks and was given a chocolate medal at the end. Once the younger children had finished, the 8-11 year olds had their turn. It was good to see the junior races on the day's schedule, but there seemed to be a oversight for anyone aged 12-16, who unfortunately ended up excluded from the junior and adult races.

bringing it home [photo: dani]

Back to the main event, and the 3.7 kilometre point marked the start of the first challenging incline which lasted for the next 600 metres. The course then headed downhill for a bit. From 4.7 to 6.5 kilometres the course went back uphill and upon passing the 5 kilometre point, the race entered Petts Wood itself. At the 6.5 kilometre point the course reached its highest point and continued to undulate but making its way back downhill. While in the woods this was a proper twisty trail run with tree roots, mud and other hazards (eg a slippery wooden bridge) to look out for.

during the residential street section [photo: brian page]

There was a good amount of support in the woods with a couple of places being particularly noisy - especially the spot where a few members of The Dirty Perks had relocated themselves to the woods and where knocking out some tunes - as I passed they happened to be playing 'Don't Look Back in Anger' by Oasis. This part was captured on video, and you can see me pass by at around 51 seconds into this video. On the subject of videos, there is a full course fly through on youtube.

the final sprint [photo: dani]

Towards the end of the section in the woods the route went past a stone memorial to William Willett. He was the man that had the idea and campaigned for daylight saving time to be introduced - it is said that the idea came to him while riding his horse in Petts Wood. He died in 1915, the year before daylight saving became law so he never lived to see his idea in action. The memorial features a sun dial which is permanently set to British Summer Time in his honour. Incidentally he is the great-great-grandfather of Chris Martin - the lead singer of the band Coldplay.

and done [photo: dani]

Just after the 8 kilometre point the race exited the woods and went back onto the local roads which lead back towards the Willett Recreation Ground where the runners were back onto the grass to sprint for the finish line. Once across the line, all participants were presented with a really nice bespoke Petts Wood 10k medal, plus there was an abundance of bananas, water and vegetable samosas on offer for all finishers.

comparing medals [photo: dani]

One of the quirky features of the race was the race mascot Woody the gorilla - this year Woody was joined by his new girlfriend Woodina. It was great fun for the kids (and adults) and really added to the brilliant atmosphere at the race HQ area. I suspect that the real effort made by the organisers to include all of the added extras are part of the reason that this event sells out every year.

#teamslgr [photo: dani]

This year 678 runners finished the race and the official results are available for viewing on the Petts Wood Runners webpage. My chip time was 42.24 and I finished in 35th position which puts me in the top 5.2% of finishers. That is a good result for me, but I can't help feeling a little disappointed because I know that without the interruption to my training I could have been a minute or two faster than that.

the bling [photo: 7t]

My overall feelings about the 10k race are slightly mixed - I think as an event it was faultless and I cannot praise the Petts Wood Runners enough - the enthusiasm and support from all around the course was fantastic. The course itself was a mixed bag of road running on pleasant but uninspiring residential back streets followed by some amazing running on the fun, twisty, undulating trails in the woods. However, I would have prefered to have spent a larger percentage of the race in the woods, which for me was the best part.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Dartford parkrun 12 - rain, parkrun tourists and three tables

I didn't run at Dartford parkrun event 11 because I had some pain in the upper part of my left foot that I was worried about. After a visit to the podiatrist/chiropodist (apparently they're exactly the same thing - who knew?) it was confirmed that I do not have a stress fracture, which I had suspected was causing the pain, but some kind of strain. That was good news, but instead of jumping straight back into running, I continued the week's training by commuting four out of the ten journeys to and from work (4x30km rides) on my bike and made a note to have a test run at Dartford parkrun event 12.

the runners assembling

I woke up on the morning of event 12 to the sound of rain, and as I left home I popped over to the car to retrieve my trail shoes but with the rain coming down, I was hit by the urge to stay dry so I accidentally drove the car over to the park. It was good to have the experience of finding and parking up in the official car park, but not one that I intend to repeat too often. For the record, the rain stopped just in time for the run.

This was the first week to date that I had not had to transport the stanchions over to the park. Instead our storage box was being used for the first week. The big change with this is that me and Richey now have to get across to the far side of the park to collect the signage before setting up, it makes the setup procedure a little different but we still managed to get it all done in time.

richey's finish runnel briefing

With that done, we were pretty much ready to go - the runners and volunteers started to arrive and I watched Richey in his element as he briefed the finish funnel team. It was brilliant watching him in full flow! Earlier in the week I had been informed that some tourists were coming to visit us, and I was pretty excited by this news. Just before run start time I spotted them and said a quick hello, I had a few pre-run things to sort out, so dashed off to take care of them.

I was a little nervous about my first run for two weeks. I knew I would be a little slower than usual, but that was fine. Just to be in a position to be able to consider running me made happy enough. In the end a lot of the faster crowd were resting their legs before the first cross-country race of the season that afternoon, so although I was slower I still finished in p2, but more importantly was happy to have remained under 20 minutes. I had a fun duel with a fellow runner as we approached the finish line and I somehow managed to pip him to the post.

parkrun tourist selfie (me, louise, stephen and helen)

As always, I headed over to the desk to pick up my scanning equipment and my hi-vis jacket. This week Tessa was away so I was joined by Richey as co-barcode scanner - it was his first time in this role and it looked like he was really enjoying himself talking to the runners as he scanned their barcodes. With that all done, Richey got on with the results processing while I headed off with two of my SLGR team mates to collect the remaining course signage.

Back in the clubhouse I spotted an interesting scene. There were three tables of parkrunners and I would have felt equally at home on any of them.

tourists' table

Table 1: The tourists
Table 2: TeamSLGR (my running club)
Table 3: The volunteers processing results

In the end I played musical chairs between the results processing table and the volunteers' table, where I spent some time chatting to Louise (blog: abradypus), Helen (blog: helsbels) and Stephen (blog: running the tube lines). You can read Louise's brilliant blog on Dartford parkrun - here.

dartford half marathon 2015

After that, I decided to buy one of the Dartford Harriers' Dartford Half-Marathon 2015 tech tees (xs) - I say 'I' but Brian 'SLGR' Page helped me out with my post run cash flow problem (apparently someone spent most of my money on tea and crisps). So I'm really pleased to be able to support the Harriers by promoting their event by wearing the tee-shirt while out running over the next few months especially after everything they have done, and continue to do, to support Dartford parkrun. I may have mentioned this before but I'm feeling quite cosy in the Dartford running community right now.

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